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Ontario Beachcombers fan gets the inside story

Beachcombers fan Clarke Petherick (Right) with Jackson Davies and Dave Dunham (Left) in front of the Persephone in Gibsons Landing on July 5.

Clarke Petherick’s Beachcombers journey began at the end.

The first episode the Campbellford, Ont. man ever saw was A Beachcombers Christmas, the 2004 TV movie that was filmed long after the series stopped its weekly run, which he saw a few years after it first aired.

Petherick was hooked and started watching syndicated reruns of The Beachcombers on Aboriginal Peoples Television (APTN). He’s now an active member of the Friends of the Beachcombers Facebook group and avid follower of all things Beachcombers.

When he started planning a trip to B.C. that would include a stop in Gibsons, he asked if anyone who worked on The Beachombers would be available to show him around town and share some insider stories.

As he did so many times as Constable Constable, Jackson Davies answered the call; so did Steve Sleep, Coast TV programming director and a former member of The Beachcombers production crew.

Davies and Sleep arranged to meet Petherick and his brother-in-law Dave Dunham, also from Eastern Ontario, at the Persephone in Gibsons Landing on July 5.

Even with all the changes, Petherick said he had no problem recognizing the Five Corners at the heart of the action in the long-running series.

Davies, an outspoken and energetic ambassador for The Beachcombers, didn’t seem surprised that a fan from afar would be interested in seeing Gibsons and hearing more about how the show was made.

“There’s no other place in the world where the whole film set was the town,” Davies said.

Petherick had his own story to share about spreading Beachcombers fandom to Ontario, after ordering Davies’ book Bruno and the Beach from a bookstore in Campbellford. “[The store owner] said he started reading the book while he was waiting for me to pick it up. He said, ‘That’s pretty cool’ and now he keeps it there.”
There was one question on Petherick’s mind that neither Davies nor Sleep could answer. In fact, it’s a question a lot of people have tried to answer since the CBC production office in Gibsons closed. “One thing that’s not in the book, however, is what ever happened to the jet boat, or jet boats?” Petherick asked.

“Everyone has their own theory,” Jackson said of the iconic black boat used by Robert Clothier’s character Relic. “It’s one of these things where you have urban myths. I get something every once in a while from someone who says they heard it was up in Powell River or some place. We should have hung on to that one.”

Sleep added that there was more than one boat on the Sunshine Coast built to the same design and at least one is still being used. “It looks just like Relic’s jet boat, but it’s not.”

The jet boat has almost as many behind-the-scenes stories associated with it as the Persephone. Sleep told Petherick and Dunham of one time when it caused a bit of panic. The crew was shooting a scene involving a cougar, which was supposed to be stalking Sara Jim, played by Charlene Aleck, and Relic comes to the rescue. “The cougar saw the jet boat coming and went ‘I’m not in on this’ and took off into the forest… It took all day for the trainer to get the cougar back. They found it in a tree.”

Davies and Sleep also left Petherick with a new mystery to ponder – the location of the time capsule the cast and crew buried after their final wrap party. Davies and Sleep won’t discuss its location, but Davies said digging it up might be a fun way to mark 2020, the 30th anniversary of the show’s last regular season. 

“I love the idea of Beachcombers unwrapped, the anniversary of the wrap party,” said Davies who added that maybe by then the CBC will have released the 300 or so episodes that are not part of the syndicated version of the series airing on APTN. 

The drive to make those episodes available via CBC’s online streaming service was even raised by Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons just before the legislature recessed this spring.

Petherick said the stop in Gibsons lived up to expectations and was the highlight of his trip to B.C. “I’m very happy to meet all these guys and for them to show us around the town and be ambassadors for Gibsons and The Beachcombers and everybody on the Sunshine Coast.”